Talent

Two coworkers are seated at my large table. They are discussing the people at work.
“Andre is so nice.”
“Yeah, he really is nice…and talented!”
“Oh yes, tremendously talented.”
“Do you know who else has a lot of talent—Eric.”
“Ah yes, Eric is talented.
 Did you get a chance to speak with Gael about getting a promotion?”
“Not yet, but I think, when I do, she’ll be amenable.”
“I’m sure she sees that you have talent. She’s bound to give you that promotion.”
“Hopefully, she appreciates my talent.”
“You’ve done amazing things with your group. Kelly, Anthony, Matthew, and Medina—they are all amazingly talented.”
“Thank you! Except that I think Anthony is far more talented than Medina. I’m not saying that Medina isn’t talented, it’s just that Anthony has superior talent.”
“I can see that.
 Medina, though, is so nice.”
“I agree. There’s no one nicer than Medina; nice to a fault, I’d say.”
“Yes, she is nice…and talented, in her own right.”
One of them has an art book on the table open to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
“That painting is mesmerizing.”
“Isn’t it, though.”
I wait for another comment, but nothing is said.
It seems odd that Leonardo da Vinci’s talent is not mentioned, since he was one of the rare people who actually did possess this quality.
Ironically, today, everyone believes that they have talent, yet there is less individuality, idiosyncrasy, and originality than ever before.
Does everyone have special superior abilities, or is the opposite true?

Quality Control

A woman sits at a table next to me, waiting. She is dressed incongruently, which, I surmise is an attempt to look eccentric, or anti-fashion. She is wearing an orange house coat from the early 1970s, green plaid socks, clogs, and a blue bandana. Her lipstick is blood red which looks odd against her very white skin.
She is talking on her cell to someone whom I assume is her fiance: “I need for you to be more involved with the wedding,” she wines. Then her voice begins to quiver.
”No Vinnie, Vinnie, I’m just saying that it would be NICE if you would…,” suddenly a young man approaches her table and stands there, waiting for her to get off of the phone.
“Vinnie, I have to go now. I’ll talk to you tonight,” she whimpers.
The woman wipes her eyes: “Hi. Sorry…I’ll be right back. “
She leaves for 5 minutes while the young man sits waiting at her table. He looks tired.
Returning, after collecting herself, the woman says to the young man, “Adam, thanks SO MUCH for meeting me. It’s been so crazy at work, and the conference room wasn’t available. I wanted to go over some things with you, and thought it would be best to just meet here, since it is nearby.”
“Sure,” says Adam.
“And let me first say THANK YOU for all of your help on this issue.”
“Uh-huh,” says Adam. “Whatever, it’s my job, right.”
“No Adam, I mean it—THANK YOU FOR ALL OF YOUR HELP.”
Adam looks at her with disdain, “No problem,” he mumbles.
“Now Adam,” she says, “I really NEEDED to speak with you—away from the magazine.” She takes out a sheet of paper that has a list of single spaced written points covering the page. “So, how can I say this?” She looks directly at him.
“I really NEED for you to be more careful! I mean, I know that there are a lot of details, but our team must have a high degree of quality control, especially now that Chelsea has left. After all, she was our team leader, and without her—things may fall into chaos.”
Adam smiles and then says, “Mills, she was another employee—that’s it—not the captain of a ship. Are you afraid there will be mutiny?”
Mills does not find this funny, “Anyway…,” she continues, “I added 87 more points to the QC List, and I think we should go over them.”
Adam looks at the sheet of paper, “…and what does QC stand for again?” he asks.
Mills looks incensed, “QUALITY CONTROL! Isn’t that obvious?” She glowers at him.
As Mills looks lovingly at her QC list, I see Adam roll his eyes.
From what I can tell, these two people work together at a magazine. Mills seems to think that she is in charge of Adam, and now, in the coffee shop, she was about to dole out some reprimand.
“So the thing is…” Mills begins, “I really NEED for you to follow the QC list.”
Adam looks annoyed. “I am following it,” he replies.
Mills looks stunned at his statement, and produces a loud laugh: “I’M JUST TRYING TO HELP YOU!” she says emphatically.
She then pulls from out of her bag a huge collection of 11″ X 17″ color layouts and arranges them on the table.
She begins: “For example, in the Beauty story…right here—you neglected to follow point #114, which says: KISS THE COPY TO THE 1p6 MEASURED LINE.”
Adam squints at the page and says, “It is touching the baseline.”
“Mills cuts him off, defensively, “Don’t you remember how we talked about the need for the copy to just hover—oh so delicately—on the upper most edge so that it is literally ‘kissing’ the baseline?”
“Kiss this, Mills,” I think to myself.
I feel for Adam, and couldn’t imagine having to work with this pathological woman. Adam looks over at me, as I raise my cup of coffee saying “cheers”.
Mills continues, “…and here, on page 126 of the Favors story, you left a space between the ‘n’ and the ‘d’.”
Adam looks annoyed, “Mills, this was dummy copy. I knew that, of course, it would be changed in the next round.”
“THAT DOESN’T MATTER!,” protests Mills, “…as it is clearly stated on the QC List: ALL DUMMY COPY MUST BE PROOFREAD.”
“But Mills,” replies poor Adam, “Dummy copy is nonsense; it’s purpose is just for…”
“IT DOESN’T MATTER!,” barks Mills “It’s on the QC List, and I really must insist that EVERY point on it be followed TO-THE-TEE!”
Her face is now red, and her eyes seem to be bulging out of her head.
I glance over at the layout she is holding and see that the margins are filled with tiny meticulous pencilled-in notations that appear to cover all the available white space on the page.
She catches her bad temper and tries to collect herself. “Anyway, do you want to take a look at my notes on these layouts?” She pushes the huge pile of 11′ X 17″ pages over to Adam.
He looks at the pile and says, “Not now Mills. I have a class. I’ll look them over at work.”
Mills observes Adam condescendingly and says, “Okay, that’s fine. We can go over this tomorrow. But Adam, I do want to say PLEASE be more C-A-R-E-F-U-L.
 Everyone LOVES you at the magazine. You are SO FUN!” Mills thinks for a moment “…and FUNNY!”
Adam rubs his temples.
“But…” Mills continues, “being fun and funny IS NOT ENOUGH!” Procedures are crucial for running a tight ship. Adam, YOU are one of the team members on this ship.”
(I’m thinking that Adam may have to bail ship sooner than later).
“I know I run a tight ship, but it’s because I CARE about QC. I have a TALENT for QC! 
Quality Control is what makes the magazine so perfect; Talent and Quality Control…where would we be without them!”
We’d be sane, Mills.
We would be sane.

Mother/Driver

One of my freelance projects is the creation of a jewelry designer’s website berthasbitsandbaubs.com.
Chloe–a friend of mine–is an actor. Like many actors, she has her down time when there is no work. Designing jewelry is a way for Chloe to cultivate other interests during these times.
My work on the website also involves the development and creation of the graphic design and advertising materials. Often, we visit the 25th Street flea market to hunt for vintage and not so vintage pieces for her charm bracelets.
Usually after a day of hunting, we then go to a nearby coffee shop to review our haul, whereby, Chloe gives me additional pieces of jewelry to photograph for the site, and we discuss our next scheme for the business.
One day, as we were involved in a business meeting, Chloe glances out of the window. A look of horror crosses her face: “Oh no!” she yells. “What is she doing! Is she crazy!”
I turn to see a woman in a car trying to back up in a very tight parking space while her 9 year old daughter stands directly behind the car, guiding the mother/driver by gesturing for her to move back further.
The horrifying part of this scene was that the daughter was literally sandwiched between the car that was backing up, and the parked car behind her.
“Keep going,” the girl says. “More, more…” The mother/driver continues backing up, and at that point hits the girl in the legs with the back fender.
“Ouch!…okay stop—no, move forward.”
So the mother/driver tries again moving back and forth, as if hitting the kid the first time wasn’t enough to make her think “hey, maybe my daughter should stand to one side of the car, rather than behind the car.”
“Can you believe this!” says Chloe to anyone in the coffee shop who would listen.
I look around and see that everyone in the coffee shop is staring at this bizarre scene in stunned silence.

The Model

About a year ago I was sitting on the lower level of my neighborhood coffee shop—looking out of the window—feeling anxious, and drinking coffee which, of course, makes the anxiety worse.
A tall thin young woman walks in. She looks tired and she is holding a power bar derivative. She orders a coffee and asks the barista a question. He argues with her for a while and then begrudgingly agrees and takes her Power Bar, putting it in the chilled section of the display.
She sits down at my table. “What did the barista do with your bar?” I ask.
The young woman has a slight Southern drawl. “I asked him if he would chill it. These bars have Protein Concentrates and Tochopheral Acetates in them, and they need to be refrigerated.” 
She gulps down half of her coffee.
 “I need another one. I don’t know what his problem was. What’s the difference if I want my bar refrigerated? What’s it to him!”
“Absolutely!” I agree, half-heartedly.
She gets up to get another coffee.
 I am a little shocked at how quickly she finishes the coffee.
 I am a nurser, myself, and will hold on to the same cup of coffee forever.
 This is a problem. It’s never good to get attached to old coffee. Get a fresh cup, move on—embrace the new!
She returns to the table with a fresh coffee and her chilled bar.
 “Are you from New York City?” I say. 
”I’m from Virginia. I have an apartment that I share with a friend. She’s a model and works the runway.”
“Are you a model?” I ask.
 “Yes! How did you know that?”
“I guessed because of your appearance.”
“Hmm…you might have some special ability…some connectivity,” she says.
”…more like disconnectivity,” I reply.
“I don’t work the runway,” she explains. “I’m doing catalogs right now. But my roommate is loaded. You can really make a lot with runway work. That’s how we can afford to have a place on Riverside and 87th Street.”
Somehow the conversation moves towards the “special abilities” she mentioned earlier.
 She tells me that she can see past and future events. She also learned from her mother how to heal people with touch.
“I can see people’s vibrational energy. I have learned to use my own energy to heal people and help them. My mother has always done it, and I have grown up learning this.”
“Wow.” I am impressed. “But, in terms of the visions, how do you know that they are real?” I ask. “I mean, isn’t it hard to tell, sometimes?”
She says: “I’ve had a very hard life…very messed up.”
Her eyes well up. “I miss home.”
For some reason I empathize with her.
 I empathize with her past mess, as I struggle to come to terms with my own messes. In this coffee shop I have encountered many others who are in the midst of a struggle, a search, or a state of limbo.
She mumbles…”very messed up—really awful.”
“How so?” I inquire gingerly.
 “I don’t know if I should say. You see, something terrible happened in my family, and I had a vision about it.”
 She wells up again.
“My brother…my brother…was murdered…
and then I saw it in a vision—my brother’s killer.
 I saw my uncle murder my brother.”
“In a vision?” I reply.
 “Yes.”
She gets up to get another cup of coffee.
“I was up all night at a party. I really need this.” She nibbles her Power Bar.
“If you knew about this, isn’t there something you could do about it?” I ask.
“What could I do?”, she said as her ultra blue perfect model’s eyes gazed out into space.
•••
Now, a year later, the rest of our conversation eludes me. Perhaps I was in a caffeinated coma, or perhaps I blocked it out, but this odd interaction has since faded from my memory.
As I left the coffee shop, the model stood up and hugged me saying, “It was wonderful talking to you. Everything is going to be alright—don’t worry so much.”
On my way out, I turned back—only to see her ordering another cup of coffee.

Parallel Universes

“Are you in line?”
“Yes.”
“Have you been waiting long?”
“I’d say so. It’s been about 5 to 7 minutes.”
“What do people do in there?”
“Wash up, read, talk on the phone, etc.”
“Hmmm, everything but the task at hand.”
“Exactly.”
A young boy walks past the line and tries the door.
“Um, there’s a line here,” says my line buddy.
The kid nods and then stands directly in front—ignoring the Law of Lines.
My line buddy side glances at me, and then laughs.
“Ah well”, I say, 
”it might be bad karma not to let him go first.”
“I think you are right,” says my line buddy.
“I’m going to knock on the door.” Wish me luck.”
“Good luck.”
I knock meekly on the door. 
A voice yells somethings incomprehensible.
“It’s done. Now we wait and see.”
“Just think,” I say,
”…in a parallel universe, the person would have come out of the bathroom, and there would be no line.”
“And the other you in that universe,” says my line buddy, “…would not have had to knock on the door—thus freeing you from the necessity of waiting.”
The person comes out of the bathroom, and the kid enters. Within seconds—he exits.
My line buddy then goes into the bathroom, and after 2 minutes comes out saying, “All systems are go! Have a great day.”
“Hopefully, in this universe—I will,” I reply.

The Internship

I am working on a freelance project at my favorite coffee shop. Suddenly I am distracted by a question and answer session between two people at the next table. Since the economy shift, most of the conversations I overhear involve schemes. I have listened to so many schemes regarding job seeking, job searching, and job planning.
Yesterday, a twenty something girl was holding court at a small table as she interviewed intern candidates for a social media start-up. The company was looking for freelance writers.
The coffee shop I usually frequent has two floors, and so each interviewee would wait downstairs while the twenty-something interviewed the current intern candidate at her “desk”.
Each person who sat at her table had their own particular personality and interviewing style.
 The first one was very nervous—anxious to please the interviewer. She was smarter than the person interviewing her, but her nervousness put her at a disadvantage.
The next interviewee, had a polished style. She was like a robot; spewing out the perfect question and answer at just the right intervals.
The third interviewee was a young man who had more writing experience than the others. He was calm, collected, and sure of himself.
The twenty-something who was interviewing the candidates seemed equally unimpressed with all of them.
As I sit here with my laptop and blueberry scone, I am glad that I have no interviews lined up, for it is surely some kind of hell to muddle through those painful encounters as you try to impress someone with your style and feigned assurance. What a welcome relief it is not to be the recipient of that dreaded question: “So, do you have any questions for me?”

List of Teaching Sessions Held in a Coffee Shop

• Japanese tutor
• English tutor
• GMAT, LSAT, and SAT tutor
• Advice for an aspiring photographer on how to present and prepare his portfolio for specific open call sessions
• Tutoring to a young man and a young woman on how to answer immigration questions regarding their marriage. The man was from out of the country and the woman was American

List of Interviews Held in a Coffee Shop

• Nanny interview
• Intern interview
• Hair stylist interview
• Potential date interview (middle-aged man and younger man)
• Barista interview

Good Job!

A mother takes a table near the window of the coffee shop with her 4 year old son. 
”Would you like to sit down and eat your cupcake now, Max?”
Max throws his toy across the floor. He gets up and runs through the coffee shop to retrieve his toy as he lets out a high-pitched screeching sound. Then he runs back and throws the toy on the table.
“Good Job!” the mother proclaims, as she applauds.
“Would you like to eat your cupcake now?”
“No!”
“Max,” she implores.
“I want my cupcake!”
He eats 2 bites of the food: “Done!”
His mother then says, “Max, eat 2 more bites, please.”
He begrudgingly does so.
“Good Job!” she tells him.
Max beams with the satisfaction of accomplishment. He then stands on the chair and begins babbling about random events—sounding not unlike the woman who stands in front of the coffee shop as she babbles about random events.
He continues his babbling, while his mother tries to get his attention:
”Max? Max? Max? Max? Max? Max? Max? Max?”
He looks at her.
“Would you like to sit down and tell me how Loads of Fun was today?”
“I don’t know.”
Max takes his napkin and folds it in half, then folds it in half again.
“Look, mommy, I made a box!”
“Good Job!” says his mother.
“Ha, ha, ha,” laughs Max.
”It’s not a box, silly…it’s a train—ha, ha, ha…silly!”
She tries again to get his attention:
“Max? Max? Max? Max? Max? Max? Max? Max?”—did you make brownies today at Loads of Fun?”
“Becky gave me a job!”
The mother repeats his statement: “Becky gave you a job?”
“Ya!”
“What was it, sweetheart?”
“My job was to pick up all of the toys and put them in the baskets. So I picked up the toys and put them in the baskets, and then I…I…I took the toys OUT of the baskets and put them on the floor again! Ha, ha, ha!”
“Good Job, honey!”
Max explains to his mother, “I told Becky that I did a good job, and she said that I did the opposite of a good job. What’s that, mommy?”

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